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'Canes win a defensive battle

by Brian Hunter
A few thoughts as Bob Gainey prepares to make his return behind the bench for the Canadiens' home game tonight against Edmonton:

Clamping down -- Cam Ward knows he's not going to get nine goals to work with every night. Facing the offensively-challenged New York Rangers on Monday night, all he needed was one.

Ward didn't allow any of the 28 shots he faced to beat him and the Carolina Hurricanes got a Joe Corvo goal in the second period and two more in the third as they won 3-0 at RBC Center to shake up the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

"It was a playoff game, in our eyes," said Ward, who recorded his 11th career shutout. "Look at the standings. Everybody knows what's at stake."

With their fourth straight victory, the Hurricanes jumped three spots in the standings, from ninth place to sixth. Conversely, the Rangers fell out of the top eight, although they are tied in points with Florida and Pittsburgh, which occupy the final two playoff spots.

"We're just not going to win if we don't score goals," said New York coach John Tortorella. "We were still there going into the third period, but I just don't think we were consistent with our forecheck. We didn't have the puck enough."

As a result, the Hurricanes were able to win despite managing just one-third of their offensive output from Saturday, when they crushed Tampa Bay, 9-3. They expected a much different type of game against a fellow playoff contender and were prepared when they got it.

"This game was a lot more fun to coach, and I think if you went around the room, it's a lot more satisfying," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "It's the difference between potato chips and steak."

A dubious distinction
-- When the puck shot by Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson went in the net Monday night, it didn't just tie the score against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It also became the 2,500th goal against Curtis Joseph in his distinguished NHL career.

Dany Heatley put puck No. 2,501 past Joseph moments later, the decisive tally in a 2-1 Ottawa win at Scotiabank Place. When informed about the "milestone" after the game, Joseph wasn't particularly impressed.

"Good one. Good one," Joseph said. "Believe me, it's not baseball, we don't keep stats like that. I mean, it just means I played a lot."

Joseph, 41, broke into the League during the 1989-90 season with St. Louis and has played in 951 games for the Blues, Oilers, Leafs, Red Wings, Coyotes and Flames. He joined Gilles Meloche, Grant Fuhr, John Vanbiesbrouck, Tony Esposito and Patrick Roy in the exclusive club.

As far as the game, Ian White scored early for the Leafs but they lost their second straight game and dropped 11 points out of a playoff spot. They are three points ahead of the Senators, who essentially are playing for pride and jobs next season under new coach Cory Clouston.

"A good effort," Alfredsson said. "I don't think we started great, but we grew as the game went on and protected the lead really well. We didn't give them a lot of chances in the third."

Whatever it takes
-- Hanging on is an apt description of what the Los Angeles Kings are doing in the Western Conference playoff race. It also sums up their game Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Jarret Stoll scored a pair of power-play goals and the Kings survived a frantic final minute to hold off the Canucks, 3-2, at Staples Center. Los Angeles climbed to within three points of a postseason berth and ended Vancouver's four-game win streak in the process.

If the Kings manage to fight their way into the top eight by season's end, it will be thanks to all-out efforts like the one defenseman Matt Greene gave them in the closing seconds. Down on the ice, Greene blocked a Vancouver shot with his head. He had to hit the locker room for repairs, but his team got the victory.

"Quite a finish," Stoll said. "Just battling like Greenie was until the end. He got a puck in the face and we got the two points. That's what it's all about."

Veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell also pointed to the play of goalie Jonathan Quick, who made nine of his 20 saves in the third when the Canucks threw everything they had at the Kings.

"We actually had a pretty good game tonight," said O'Donnell. "Give Vancouver some credit -- they picked it up those last 12 or 13 minutes and it seemed like they had six or seven guys on the ice a couple of times. We found a way to win, and when we did make a mistake Quicker made a real good couple saves for us."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.
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